Eagles Bring Back Taylor Hart
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — For now at least the Eagles went the conservative route when seeking out the physical replacements for injured stars Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks, bringing back a pair of familiar names in Taylor Hart and Don Cherry.
Both Peters (torn ACL and MCL in his right knee) and Hicks (a torn Achilles) were lost for the season in Monday's 34-24 win over Washington.
On the field, the plans are well-known with second-year man Halapoulivaati Vaitai stepping into the starting lineup at either right or left tackle in place of Peters with an NFL source saying left tackle is the more likely option, something Johnson hinted at before a walk-through practice on Wednesday.
“I think I’m better on the right for now," Johnson admitted. "I haven’t had any reps over there. Not to say I can’t do it."
Either way offensive coordinator Frank Reich is optimistic but understands replacing Peters is no easy accomplishment.
“We have a lot of confidence in guys," Reich said. "Now, I’m not going to lie. Jason Peters is a rare player. I have no problem saying – I’ve been around this game for 30 years, and I’ve been around some great offensive linemen, a lot of great offensive linemen and Jason Peters is the best one I’ve been around.”
Meanwhile, a committee approach will be used in Hicks' absence with Joe Walker handling the mike duties in the base defense and Nigel Bradham sliding over to Hicks' role in the nickel and Mychal Kendricks serving as the other three-down linebacker with veteran Najee Goode also mixing in on occasion.
As far as the roster goes the Eagles moved Peters to injured reserve on Wednesday night and brought back Hart, the veteran defensive lineman who tried to transition to the offensive line this summer.
Hart, 26, played some five-technique defensive end under Chip Kelly from 2014 to 2015 and defensive tackle for a portion of last season before moving over to the offensive side of the ball in the offseason.
It seemed like a longshot but Hart performed better than expected and made a push for one of the final roster spots. With on practice squad eligibility left, the Eagles kept developmental prospect Dillon Gordon instead but when a slot opened on the final 53 they went back to Hart.
"All my grades on Taylor while he was here were very high," Reich said. "It's a tough business; there's only so many spots. But I was very impressed with Taylor through OTAs and training camp and thought he showed a lot of good signs."
Earlier in the day Gordon said the Eagled had not talked to him about being promotoed and reacted to the Hary signing by tweeting “Hmmm ok,” with an “unamused face” emoji.
The game-day swing tackle behind Vaitai and right tackle Lane Johnson, however, is expected to be failed left guard Isaac Seumalo, who has experience at tackle in college and did play right tackle at Baltimore last season.
"Very comfortable with Isaac being the swing tackle," Reich said. "His attributes that he has, the quickness, the body quickness that he has, the footwork that he has, you can almost say he has some natural tendencies to play the tackle position. You come here and the two tackles that we had, and certainly in a lot of ways project him at the guard position and develop him there, but this is the NFL, you only have seven or eight -- usually seven linemen active. So thankfully we got a guy like Isaac who has that flexibility, and not just flexibility but who we think has the qualities that it takes to play that position.
Cherry, the Villanova product who was a bit of a playmaker in the preseason, was added to the practice squad although Hicks has not been moved to IR just yet so there is a chance the Eagles are still looking at veteran bodies to replace Hicks on the 53-man roster.
Defensive end Alex McCalister was released from the practice squad to make room for Cherry.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen